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It’s the dawn of a new season

By Jennifer Robison

To: Brick and mortar dealers

We are in the twilight of 2011 and the dawn of 2012. This is our time to reset, re-plan and re-retail!

2012 can and will bring new opportunities. If you plan the whole year out by each 90 days (a season) in advanced instead of waiting for inspiration, you can be many times more successful. Mark your calendars every 90 days, plan the types of products you will carry and the space required to merchandise them, and you must plan to let customers know through as many channels as you can that you have these products – this is how you will more likely find financial success. Success is deliberate and is not usually by luck or a massive economy change. Even if the economy instantly turned around and unemployment dropped, customers will not necessarily pour in your doors; they’ll likely go to companies, brands or hobbies that stayed fresh in their minds and relevant to the way they live. You have to stay in touch with your customer base while finding ways to add new fans of your business.

Watch what the National Retail Federation is doing in using its strength to balance sales tax collection. Many of you know online retailers don’t collect sales taxes, and the U.S. has lost $24 billion because of this. The NRF is working to change legislation to make online retailers have to charge sales tax. In Washington state, where I live, this has already passed; I cannot buy online from anyone and not pay Washington sales tax. Equity in collection of sales tax likely will give you a more level playing field, however many online retailers are ahead of the game as they have built consumer confidence and top customer service. Keep in mind, your store’s customer service and ability to make a sale is more of a factor than how much inventory your store carries or sometimes what type of inventory. Bump up your game, and give top customer service; that’s very important to shoppers!

Another good factor for you – while unfortunate – is many brick and mortar dealers have closed and more will likely follow. This is an indicator of what businesses and business models are able to survive. Your store may have lost a competitor in your market, and you need to step up and court those customers. Try to do so by doing these things:

  • Start with looking at any way to update your store.
  • Add PG&A you didn’t carry before that fills the void the lost competitor may have provided.
  • Have events and make announcements that you are here, in business and ready to serve customers’ needs.
  • Call people you know were customers of the competitor’s store and invite them to your store.
  • Have a coupon for first-time shoppers.
  • Use all forms of media to attract these customers.
  • Try not to lose these people to Internet retailers if possible.
  • Make sure employees and buyers attend shows and events like Dealer Expo. They need to see the newest products and trends to bring to your stores!
  • Find a way to celebrate or motivate staff. I know you’re trying to keep costs down, but remember your staff is key to your success, not your location or your discounts, etc. People first!
  • Work with suppliers that are future-minded and have solutions that help dealers of all kinds grow, and be willing to grow!

I would very much love to see you all have a very merry holiday and look with a smile into 2012. I believe you can do it; make success, don’t hope for it.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays.

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